The Climate Battle in South Asia

Approximately 60% of the South Asian population’s livelihood depends on agriculture. © Google Images



By Senashia Ekanayake


It’s ironic how the world’s poorest countries are those severely affected by climate change. With the Himalayas in place and the countries’ proximity to the equator, climate change is an issue we are to deal with right here, right now.  A recent article in the World Bank that quoted the IPCC fourth Assessment Report provided specific climate change impacts to the South Asian region:

  • Glacier melting in the Himalayas in projected to increase flooding and will affect water resources within the next two to three     decades.
  • Climate change will compound the pressures on natural resources and the environment due to rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and economic development.
  • Crop yields could decrease up to 30% by mid 21st Century.
  • Morality due to diarrhoea primarily associated with floods and droughts to increase.
  • Sea-level rise will exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards.

However, the questions among most South Asians, what are the countries’ governments doing about it?

The recently concluded ‘South Asian Parliamentarians and Policymaker’s at Work’ regional conference in Islamabad, Pakistan perhaps renewed a dying cause for environmentalism within the region that has not been addressed in the recent past by the region’s official representative body. The crux of the conference was based on climate change solidarity and included the potential exchange of environmental knowledge, mitigation and adaptation schemes and programmes pertaining to managing forests and rivers and renewable technology.

On the contrary, climate experts in the region silently debate another issue: if it is adequate for countries to combat climate change within the boundaries of their state?

The World Bank article features a dialogue with LSE Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Sir Nicholas Stern who restates the importance of the region’s positioning and vulnerability caused by the Himalayas, coastal areas and dependency on agriculture.

“Precipitation comes, and it’s held there. That’s how you get water in the rivers. That effect will not be there if the glaciers and snow are not there. Which means you’ll get torrents during the wet season and dry rivers in the dry season. So you’ll get a combination of flood and drought,” Stern said.

Furthermore, the region is subject to immense global political pressure primarily due to three reasons:

  • Attainment of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals by 2015;
  • The key development areas that would be adversely affected by climate change as identified by the World Bank (human health, water supply and sanitation, energy, transport, industry, mining and construction, trade and tourism, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, environmental protection and disaster management);
  • The region’s improving economic stability and the world’s and UN’s shift in focus to the African continent that would result in a lesser number of grants and aid from the international community.

While individual organisations are conducting a number of programmes and researching on key concerns of the area, it is also important for these events to be kept track of and for research to be translated to something beyond a journal publication, if climate change is to be addressed as a collective concern.



South Asia & Climate Change: A Development and Environmental Issue – World Bank

South Asian Legislators Vow to Collaborate on Climate Action – Reuters


About the Author:

SeniSenashia Ekanayake is a writer, an advocate of Arts, Education and climate change activist. She read for her degree in English, dabbled in the corporate world and is now involved with CANSA Communications.